PLANS for Southampton’s first-ever all-through school have been given the green light. 

Planning bosses have  backed the proposals for a new 900-place four-to-16 school at the site of St Mark’s Church of England Primary School and the nearby ex-civil service playing fields in Freemantle.

The existing school will be demolished and replaced with new buildings which will host a primary and secondary school.

A new  sports building, sports pitches, a soft play area and a playground are also set to be built at the site. 

The plans were discussed for almost two hours at a packed public meeting this week.

Both civic chiefs and residents acknowledged the need for more school places in the city.

But some of them  raised concerns over the scheme and its impact on traffic, pollution and the local community which currently uses the fields by the school.

Kerry Sullivan, co-chair of the residents’ group Friends of the Field, stressed the importance of the green space for local residents.

She said: “Our main concern is the removal of an open space in the community. We believe that something could be done to continue providing for the local community outside the school hours. We need further information  about the travel plan but most importantly we ask that  planners seriously consider other options for this green space.”

Other concerns were raised over traffic and road safety.

It comes as plans for highways mitigation measures are still being finalised.

Cllr John Savage, chairman of the Planning and Rights of Way Panel at Southampton City Council, asked planning officers if they didn’t think the plans were “half-baked”.

He added: “This is a very difficult plan. It’s tricky because there’s an awful lot of things that need to be sorted.”

Planning bosses said a community use agreement will be negotiated to ensure residents have access to the facilities available at the school outside of formal school hours.

They also said they feel the proposals cover highways safety.

The panel decided to back the scheme and delegate the final decision to the  Head of Planning and Economic Development once details of BREEAM and highways impact mitigation are finalised.

Work is now expected to start this year for the school to open in 2022.

The decision was welcomed by Councillor Darren Paffey, cabinet member for aspiration, children and lifelong learning at the city council.

After the meeting he said: “This is a major construction project and we are mindful of the impact that works can have on the nearby community. We will be keeping local residents and businesses updated as the project progresses and do what we can to keep any disruption to a minimum.”

Jeff Williams, director of education at the Diocese of Winchester, added: “We’ve been working in partnership with Southampton City Council on the planned expansion. We’re really pleased that the project can move forward. We’re confident that the finished school will stand as a real beacon of the Church of England’s commitment to supporting more children, of all faiths and none, in flourishing and reaching their potential.”

As previously reported, the plans were first unveiled by the city council in 2017 as the authority promised to create 1,500 new secondary places in the central region of the city by 2023.